CNY Potluck Gathering, Melbourne Flash Flooding Drama & Girls Weekend Away

(Photo: “Tu Kha Sng” Pork Leg dish I cooked up for Chinese New Year)

I just had a very interesting weekend. So much was happening in the last few days it was crazy! It all started on Friday night, as the rain started pouring at 6pm and I had to drive through areas in Narre Warren that already started flash flooding after less than 15 minutes of heavy rain. My poor little Barina braved through the flooded areas and I somehow managed to get home safely.

But it didn’t end there. As soon as hubby got home, we had to brave the heavy rains and potential flood areas once again to get to our friends’ house for the Chinese New Year potluck gathering I already cooked for the night before. It was still raining very heavily, and the drains outside our house were overflowing and water was everywhere, but we went out anyway. We probably should’ve stayed home, especially after we turned right into Bemersyde Drive and was greeted by water so high our tyres were covered, and there was already a car there stuck! We persevered, and drove slowly but steadily and soon got out of the worst areas and arrived safely at our party house on the hill.

Once we were inside, we had a great time…

The rain stopped later that night, so eventually we managed to drive home without too much drama. We had no idea what we were about to see the next day…

This was a photo of MY street! Just down the road the flash floods were so bad the road was closed and people walked over there to see what was happening and we were just amazed at what we saw. The farmlands down the road were all completely flooded, animals had to be rescued, a few houses were affected but thankfully most of the commercially built houses were up my end of the street at higher ground so our house was safe.

Can you imagine seeing ducks swimming on the road I normally drive on every single day?

So we decided to go on a little adventure and explore nearby areas where we think were highly affected. Hashtags #vicfloods were everywhere on Twitter. I was tweeting the whole time too.

Check out my photo album on Flickr: VICTORIA FLOODS 5TH FEB 2011

One of the major dramas we witnessed while we were out exploring was seeing a teenage boy cling on to his life in surging waters hugging a telephone pole! Apparently, 3 silly teenagers decided to “have a bit of fun” until they realise the water was surging dangerously fast and whilst 2 boys managed to get out safely, one got stuck! So eventually, the rescue teams from CFA and SES arrived and the picture above was when the teenage boy was being rescued in Beaconsfield. I was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and took some amazing shots of the rescue in progress that Reuters News contacted me via Twitter and asked to purchase my photos!

So, I was “Citizen Journalist” for the day and my photo got published in news websites all over the world thanks to Reuters. Example here below on Yahoo! News:

(Click for larger image. I’ve circled where it says “REUTERS/Kimberly Peterson” I thought that was really cool. This photo was also featured on SRN News, The Irish Times and 2space)

Click here to see more rescue photos including more flooded areas, the traffic chaos and Channel 9 News helicopter hovering right above us!

After all that drama and the excitement of speaking to reporters and emailing my photos to the local news, my day took another lovely spin of traveling to the coastal areas of McCrae and Rosebud with my sister in laws for our Girls Weekend Away. We were spending the night at The Shores Accommodation at McCrae in a lovely 3-bedroom townhouse.

The Shores Accommodation provided everything we needed and the townhouse is absolutely gorgeous! We were a short distance away from Rosebud shops and restaurants, but unfortunately the weather obviously meant we didn’t get to spend any time at the beach. No complaints though, we were more than happy to stay in the townhouse and enjoy a night in watching movies and just talking and enjoying each others company.

Finally, I am not forgetting the fact that this is indeed a food blog and this post would somewhat be incomplete if I didn’t share my recipe for the “Tu Kha Sng” Pork Leg which I cooked up for Chinese New Year! This dish is one of my aunt’s signature dishes and I am grateful that this recipe has been passed on to me! It’s my favorite childhood dish during our annual Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner back in Malaysia. The Hokkien name “Tu Kha Sng” directly translated means “Pork Leg Sour”. Its flavors are predominantly sweet, sour and mildly spicy from the fresh chillies.

“Tu Kha Sng” Pork Leg Recipe

Serves 12 – 16 people

Ingredients:
6kg pork leg, chopped into casserole pieces, skin and bone on
20 garlic cloves, unchopped, thin layer skin on
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup hot chilli sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 red chillis, sliced

Method:
In a large pot, slowly heat pork leg (covered) for about 10 minutes or until the water produced naturally by the meat starts simmering. Add dark soy sauce. Simmer further for 30 minutes, covered, in medium heat.

Add garlic cloves and simmer for another 15 minutes, covered.

Add tomato sauce, hot chilli sauce, vinegar and caster sugar. Stir gently. Simmer for another hour, or until the meat is tender. Add most of the amount of sliced chillies (leave some for garnish) and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with remaining sliced chillies. Serve with steamed rice and stirfried Chinese vegetables with egg tofu.

 

South Pacific Christmas Cruise 2010 – Rhapsody of the Seas – Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Part 4)

Part 4: Port of Calls

According to Wikipedia, the most reliable yet unreliable source on the internet, a Port of Call is “an intermediate stop for a ship on its sailing itinerary, which may include up to half a dozen ports. At these ports, a cargo ship may take on supplies or fuel, as well as unloading and loading cargo. But for a cruise ship, it is their premier stop where the cruise lines take on passengers to enjoy their vacation“.

Hubby and I well and truly enjoyed our vacation over the Christmas break in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands. We stopped at four Port of Calls where we had about 8 hours in each stop to explore each island. In my final part of this cruise holiday series, I will run through each Port of Call and its main attractions. Enjoy!

21st December 2010 – Isle of Pines, New CaledoniaBeach

Being the first stop, this island truly took my breath away. It was a very warm day, and even from a distance we saw the tall pine trees clearly distinguishing its uniqueness and thus the name. The crystal clear blue waters were so inviting, we spent hours in the water just admiring the beauty of our surroundings.Arrival music by locals

When we first arrived, we were greeted by the locals. I love seeing the local kids run around and I loved absorbing the French influenced culture of the New Caledonians.


There were some shopping opportunities – although not much, it was enough for me to acquire my one and only desired souvenir whenever I travel – a FRIDGE MAGNET! Hehe.

Hubby and I went for a little walk before I gave up due to the heat. I just wanted to skip to the snorkeling part of our trip! So hubby went on with another guy we’ve made friends with while we were on the ship, and I went on to the beach to join his wife and kids.

A picture of hubby when he proudly completed the intensely hot 5km walk to the town centre.. 🙂Church at Isle of Pines

A picture of the Catholic Church at town.

Snorkeling 

When hubby finally came back, we spent hours snorkeling and admiring the beautiful coral reefs and the colorful fish and other sea creatures just within arms reach. It was one of the most incredible first experiences for me (yes – I’ve never been out snorkeling before this day) and I really looked forward to doing more snorkeling in the next few port of calls because that was basically all this trip was about!

Another shot of The Rock

Snorkeling especially around “The Rock” was incredible.

22nd December 2010 – Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Mystery Island, Vanuatu 22nd Dec 2010

Mystery Island is a really, really small island. Seriously you can walk all the way around the island in less than 30 minutes! That’s how small it is. But the beauty of Mystery Island is the untouched corals and yes, another amazing location for snorkeling and diving. On the day we were here, the weather wasn’t that friendly. It rained and then stopped, then rain and stopped again. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying our day!

Arrival and departure

This is how we got on and off the tender boats. The busiest days in these islands are when cruise ship tourists come!

Welcome to the marketplace

Despite its size, Mystery Island actually has quite a large marketplace compared to Isle of Pines. Souvenir galore! Of course, we were only interested in fridge magnets 😉

Hair braiding

Hair braiding is a very popular activity here at these islands. However, I didn’t get my hair braided – I didn’t want to ruin my hair or have to deal with the massive poofy hair afterwards!

Also very popular, fresh lobsters!!

But that didn't stop me from taking photos!This was a large lobster. Looks YUM!

I didn’t get to eat them though, just in case our stomachs couldn’t handle it – wouldn’t want to go through the rest of the cruise with food poisoning! I know that’s silly, life is short and we should’ve just gone for it. Others did and they were fine!

Photo Opportunity?

A random photo opportunity. I would’ve been quite scared actually, haha.

Clear blue waters, white sands.. aahhh so pretty.

As you can see the waters at Mystery Island is just as blue and clear and gorgeous!

Just gorgeous.. the water, not the boat haha.

Simply incredible. Writing this now, I can’t believe we are back at work living our daily routines and no longer there in PARADISE! Arghh…

23rd December 2010 – Noumea, New Caledonia

Noumea was the only Port of Call where the ship actually docked at the port instead of just tendering. In the morning, we hopped on a bus to get to our pre-planned excursion aka kayaking expedition.

Kayaking in Dumbea

We were kayaking on the Dumbea River, about 25 minutes away from the port. We kayaked for about an hour and a half including swimming in the river. Then, the bus took us back to the ship. We freshened up and then took another bus to the town centre in Noumea.

To be perfectly honest, other than the pretty trees and the nice looking church we saw on our way – we didn’t really like Noumea very much! Kayaking was okay, but when we got to town we were just too HOT to really enjoy walking – and the buildings were normal, and the streets were unclean, and the only time I really relaxed was when we stepped into a large souvenir shop with really strong air conditioning! I made sure I look at souvenirs very slowly in that shop, to make the most of the air con. We ended up buying a fridge magnet AND a wooden shark, lol. Overspent!

A photo of the streets in the middle of town.

This was where our bus dropped us off and picked us up. I suppose Noumea wasn’t THAT bad, but because of the extreme heat it just wasn’t that enjoyable without the beautiful water to look at, hehe.

Even in the shade where people sat to eat lunch, it was HOT!

24th December 2010 – Lifou, Loyalty IslandsArriving at Lifou

Thankfully, Noumea wasn’t our last stop or I would’ve been pretty annoyed! When we arrived at Lifou the next day, I was back in my happy place. Lifou is just as amazing if not more amazing than Isle of Pines!Enoch @ Lifou village

We saw some cute village huts 🙂Souvenirs, souvenirs..

Shopping was just as plenty 🙂

We saw a massive TURTLE in the water! Although the pics ended up bad, we saw the turtle very clearly it was so awesome 🙂

Butterfly!

We went for a walk and there were butterflies everywhere!

Tender boats going back and forth our cruise ship

We got up to the top of the hill where the church was, and the view from the top was spectacular! We saw our ship from a distance… with the tender boats at work!

Beautiful island

View of Lifou from the top of the hill where we walked up to.. hmm… this photo makes it look like we walked very far to take this picture from the port, lol.

View from the top of Lifou

View of the other side of Lifou!

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A random awesome shot 🙂

Best snorkeling spot ever.. in Lifou

And finally when we were done exploring and needed to cool off, we jumped into one of the best locations IN THE WORLD for snorkeling, right here at Lifou island. I’ve overheard some people say it’s even better than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef! It was truly magnificent – the perfect end to our cruise holiday as we headed back to Sydney, Australia that night.

Well, boys and girls that concludes my series of blog posts dedicated to my recent cruise holiday. I hope you enjoyed the little stories and especially the photos I’ve shared. This holiday was a very memorable one, so I’m actually quite happy to share this here on my blog.

I will be back to blogging my day to day cooking adventures very soon! In fact, I already have a few posts up my sleeve while I took the time to write these cruise blog entries. Stay tuned

South Pacific Christmas Cruise 2010 – Rhapsody of the Seas – Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Part 3)

Part 3: Food Reviews

Hello again everyone! This post will be my 2nd last post of my cruise holiday series, where I will be doing a quick review on selected dishes onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas served at the Edelweiss Dining Room – and then I will post my last blog entry of this series and show you some of the sights in the four island destinations we’ve stopped at between Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

As you all have already seen in my previous blog entries, the food at the Windjammer Cafe buffet styled looks delicious and fulfilling. Overall, I was very happy with the quality and variety of food served at the buffet – so I thought it would be rather boring to just say all the wonderful things about the Windjammer Cafe food, so I will just focus on the food served at the formal dining room.

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The menu presented at the Edelweiss Dining Room is exquisite and rather fancy. There is a wonderful selection of Starters, Mains and later on Desserts to choose from every night. You are not restricted to ordering just one of each, but of course no one is shameless enough to look greedy at the fancy dining room!

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 If you are having difficulty in deciding, you may just choose to go with the Chef’s Signature Menu option where the decision has been made for you. To be honest, I have gone with the Chef’s Signature Menu twice and I wasn’t very impressed with the selections. I find I made better choices when deciding myself and properly reading the menu and visualizing what was about to be plated up for me.

On our first night, I didn’t have my camera with me at the dining room – but I distinctly remember how disappointed I was with the meal I had on our first night. How bad is that?! My first impression wasn’t too good. The salad hubby ordered was a simple salad with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced raw mushrooms and cucumber! No dressing! Not even fancy leaves, just simple lettuce! It was shocking really. I really don’t know how they could serve up such a plain salad.

That night, I also ordered a pork dish of some sort. The pork was extremely overcooked and very dry. They should be happy I didn’t have my camera with me – because that was one of the worst meals I have ever had and like I said, such BAD first impression!

Thankfully, the following nights just kept getting better and better… it was almost as if the chefs had a nervous start and just kept gaining more and more confidence, lol 🙂

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Starting with the Escargots Bourguignonne – Tender snails, drenched in melted garlic herb butter and baked to perfection. It was indeed cooked to perfection and possibly one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted. It was so delicious, I didn’t think I had enough!

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See? Only 6 little snails and it was all over… it was a sad moment. I didn’t want it to end.

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Another standout Starters was the Scallops Risotto. The scallops were perfectly cooked to its right texture and the risotto was rich and smooth and had a really delicious flavour like it was cooked in a traditional chicken stock.

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The lamb shanks were not too bad, it was tender like it should be, but I thought the sauce could’ve been richer or could’ve had more distinct flavours in them. It was an alright lamb, but the mashed potatoes were absolutely perfect. It was light and fluffy without lumps – the way I like it!

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The next entree I was very pleased to have picked was the Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad – slices of grilled Moroccan spiced chicken breast with eggplant, rocket, shredded carrots, green beans and raisins. The papadum was a lovely touch, although it was a bit stale and not as crunchy as it should be. The chicken was full of flavour and the salad was fresh.

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Hubby had the Potato Gnocchi tossed with ham and garden peas in a cream reduction. Hubby is a huge fan of pasta so all the pasta dishes you see in this review were ordered by hubby.

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For the mains, I had the Prawn and Mahi Mahi Tempura lightly coated in tempura batter, fried golden and served with stir fried vegetables and chilli lime plum sauce. It was a surprisingly huge meal! The tempura batter was delicious but a little bit soggy. It was overall a satisfying meal in terms of quantity but it could’ve been crispier. Can’t blame them though – imagine cooking THOUSANDS of these meals! It would be a challenge to maintain the crispyness of these types of meals.

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Moving on to some desserts, I had this Chocolate Brownie Sandwich, a dark bittersweet chocolate mousse wedged between layers of rich chocolate brownie… it tasted exactly as it looked, RICH and CHOCOLATEY!

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The very next day, I had a pretty successful meal again. The Duck Salad was a delightful dish with smokey slices of duck breast served over slightly bitter mesclun greens and dressed with orange-walnut vinaigrette. Duck was perfect and sliced extremely thin but so full of smokey flavour, and the dressing was magic! I actually think the dressing made this salad. The whole salad burst with savoury flavours of the duck combined with crunchiness of the salad and topped with the sweet nutty orange dressing with a slight tangy hit. Perfect!

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To follow that incredible Duck Salad, the Osso Buco Gremolada – veal shanks braised with spring vegetables in rich wine-tomato sauce, served with creamy polenta and string beans. The veal was decadent, melts in my mouth. Sauce was rich and had the right flavours. However, the beans were slightly undercooked and was too crunchy, and the polenta was a bit chunky and also slightly undercooked. Never mind the not so good sides, as long as the meat was yummy I was happy!

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I decided to be a little bit adventurous with my dessert and skipped the typical cheesecake, skipped the lime tarts, skipped the chocolate and opted for the Sugar-Free Lime Basil Iced Terrine – basil and lime-infused, creamy, frozen mousse served with a berry salad. Interesting choice. Wonderful presentation. Interesting flavours! I still don’t know how to explain this, but the combination worked. That is all I could comment, lol.

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The next day though, I was back to a safe choice of Choca-Chino Trilogy a delightful chocolate trio of Sweet Grand Marnier white chocolate mousse, creamy milk chocolate Kahlua cheesecake and a slice of dense, dark chocolate mud cake. YUM!

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A couple more outstanding Main Dishes: Slow-Roasted Double Cut Pork Loin served atop a bed of braised lentils with crisp green beans, potato gratin and onion jus. Looks exquisite and tasted amazing. They got the pork right this time – it was no longer dry like that first night, it was delightfully juicy!

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I had the amazing Roasted Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Herb with sauteed vegetables, mashed potatoes and a rich Cabernet wine sauce. The sauce was pretty average, but the lamb was cooked to perfection! Once again the meat saves the day, haha.

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On Christmas Day, hubby and I both opted for the same main dish… of course we had to have the Golden-Roasted Christmas Turkey with chestnut and sage stuffing, pan gravy, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, glazed carrots and cranberry-orange zest sauce it was Christmas! It was indeed a fulfilling Christmas meal and the only thing missing was actually seeing a whole turkey in the middle of the table and actually seeing it being carved but oh well, maybe cruise ships should consider that next time, just serve up a whole turkey each table ay! Hehehehehe…

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On our last night, we also both chose the Lemon Crusted Crocodile Skewers as starters. Well, how often do you get to eat crocodile meat right?! If you haven’t had crocodile before, I would describe it as having the taste of chicken and the texture of fish. It is actually very soft and tender despite how dry it looks in this pic, and it tastes like chicken. Very unique and a true delicacy perfect for our last meal on the ship.

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As for the mains, I ordered the Asian Duck, ginger-marinated duck glazed with orange hoisin sauce, roasted and served with stir fried Chinese cabbage and steamed rice. A very “homey” dish I would expect to have if I was at home in Malaysia. The duck was beautifully marinated and well the rice and veggies were pretty average.

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Hubby had a generous portion of the Slow-Roasted Aged Prime Rib. Incredibly tender but I thought the presentation wasn’t anything fancy. I mean, come on it was our last night – they could’ve done so much better with the presentation of this dish. This looks like something I would serve up on a normal weeknight at home, it wasn’t bad, just wasn’t incredible enough for fancy dining room standards. Sorry to be picky about the presentation, I just have higher expectations for fancier dining places that’s all. The presentation is extremely important as it affects the whole dining experience.

Chocolate and Banana Strudel, yummo

Later on, the Chocolate Banana Strudel saved the day. This strudel was incredible! Maybe it was just me, but I loved the combination of chocolate and banana and the thin layers of pastry. What an incredible dessert to end the night and to end the cruise.

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And of course, sometime during the cruise we managed to resist the temptation of going to a buffet breakfast in exchange for a fully serviced breakfast at the dining room – Eggs Benedict!! Need I say more??

People have often asked me ever since I got back from the cruise, “How was the food?” “Was it any good?”. Well, the overall standard of the food is around 4 stars out of 5. It’s not quite 5 stars and I honestly don’t think it will ever get to 5 simply because of the restrictions in terms of the over capacity of the dining room each night (Imagine a normal restaurant trying to feed over 2,000 dinner guests every night!) and the intense demand for continuous food. The stocking of food and the planning and the preparation and the serving up is also quite a tricky process and requires a lot of attention to detail in order to make it work.

Overall, the Rhapsody of the Seas does a pretty good job at making sure most of their food is freshly cooked on the same day and somehow the food served up is still hot. So I will excuse the fact that I had a BAD first night, and then maybe once or twice after that I get slightly disappointed, and that not everyone onboard is a picky food critic wannabe like me, and just give them the credit of doing a truly wonderful job at making sure the food is of high standards. Like I said, a few dishes actually stood out and were some of the best dishes I have ever tasted. So it’s all good! 🙂

To be continued…

South Pacific Christmas Cruise 2010 – Rhapsody of the Seas – Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Part 2)

Part 2: Activities onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas

Based on my last entry, you probably already had a good feel of what you can do while onboard a cruise ship – casino, movies, spa treatment, gym, swimming, tanning, rock climbing, etc. However, it also seems the main activity onboard is EATING! Well, while I won’t deny that eating is probably the best thing to do while onboard when the ship is sailing on its way to your destinations, there are many activities organised throughout the day that would keep you occupied eg Trivia, Bingo, Treasure Hunts, workshops and lectures, cocktail demonstrations, dance lessons, competitions, sports tournaments, etc.
We find time passes very quickly on a cruise ship, and we were not even trying to do as many activities as we could! We took it very easy, sleeping in and mostly skipping breakfast and going straight to lunch.
BBQ Lunch Buffet
Besides the standard Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe already filled with an abundance of food, sometimes they bring out a random BBQ lunch or a Tropical Buffet just to give you even more options for food.
Chefs cooking BBQ
And just when you think you’ve had enough of food, a CHEF comes out of his kitchen in the middle of the day to teach us how to cook a Paella…. and then we all got to eat it!
Paella Cooking Demonstration by Executive Sous Chef Vinay
One of the competitions we enjoyed watching was the Men’s Belly Flop competition:
Impressive Belly Flop

The aim is to jump into the water FLAT on your belly. Your bum is not allowed to stick out, haha. The flatter you are, the higher the score… oh, and also the more painful. We saw some pretty red chests coming out of the water after the jump, haha.

Mens Belly Flop Competition
And right after everyone has had a turn.. they ALL do it simultaneously!
Splash!
There was a big splash!
Roots Vibration
The poolside band “Roots Vibration” continuously entertains throughout the day with their Jamaican sounds.
Pool Party
And then at night, the pool deck transforms into a massive Pool Party! Hubby and I took the opportunity to sit in the spa while we observe the people partying and dancing, it was quite nice and relaxing for us.
Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers
Also, because we were on a Christmas Cruise, on Christmas Eve the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers sang Christmas carols for us at the Centrum with the big band!
Christmas Carols
The Christmas spirit was everywhere… so colorful and pretty!
Caroling in the Centrum
The Centrum was packed… I think pretty much everyone in the ship was here during the carols, although I’m pretty sure some were at the Windjammer Cafe eating………. haha!
I also really enjoyed the Towel Folding Demonstration where they showed us how to fold the cute little Towel Animals left in our rooms everynight… it is so creative. I took videos of the demonstration, so maybe one of these days I will upload it to YouTube.
One of the highlights of our trip were of course the production shows. It was simply incredible to watch the various acts on stage in the theatre every night. Felt like fancy a date night every night, so special!
In my next blog entry, I will share some food reviews as some people may be sceptical over the quality of the food on such a commercial ship. We all know the ship offered quantity in terms of food, but what about the quality? I will reveal it all in Part 3 of my cruise holiday blog series… stay tuned.
To Be Continued…

Holiday Recap: South Pacific Christmas Cruise 2010 – Rhapsody of the Seas – Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Part 1)

Part 1: Tour of the Ship

I have just finished my 3-week Christmas / New Year break and back at work. The past week, I have been relaxing at home, almost too relaxed to the point where I didn’t feel like cooking anything “fancy” or “blog-worthy” and I didn’t even feel like blogging. After that nice and refreshing break, I feel like blogging – but I don’t have any cooking material to share! So I’ve decided to blog about my holiday… I hope that’s okay 🙂

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Our journey began on the 18th of December 2010 at Sydney, Australia. Hubby and I flew from Melbourne to Sydney in the morning, and when we arrived at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, Sydney – we were both pretty excited to see that our ship was already there waiting for us!

 

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The local passers by were quite excited too! A lot of people took pictures of the ship whether or not they were hopping onboard. I felt pretty good at that point, I GET TO HOP ONBOARD!

After about an hour of queuing up and going through customs and checking in our luggage, we finally got our SeaPass Cards. The SeaPass Card is our single piece of identity card which acts as a swipe key to get in our rooms, as well as a “credit card” for all purchases onboard, as well as our ID for hopping on and off the ship. We didn’t have to worry at all about carrying cash or passports around. Very handy!

Our Stateroom

We got ourselves a “Large Oceanview Stateroom” which pretty much had all the facilities we needed. It comes with a Queen sized bed, a couch, coffee table, TV, surprisingly spacious wardrobe, a small but sufficient bathroom, a dressing table and a safe to keep all our valuable belongings.

As soon as we dumped our stuff, I grabbed my camera and we decided to go and explore the ship. The Rhapsody of the Seas has 11 decks altogether, which meant 11 floors to explore. Hubby decided to explore from the bottom up since we were already in Deck 2.

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As we were exploring, the staff were busy moving luggage bags to designated rooms. Deck 2 and 3 were pretty much rooms and rooms and more rooms! The Rhapsody of the Seas is a “Vision” Class Royal Caribbean ship and our cruise had a total of 2,022 passengers!

Edelweiss Restaurant

This is the main dining room – Edelweiss on Deck 4 and 5 – where we had all our serviced meals. Edelweiss Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but we mostly come here just for dinner as it is a lot quicker to just grab a quick bite at the Windjammer Cafe buffet… but I will get to that later 🙂

Also on Deck 4 is a Champagne Bar where people can enjoy a quiet drink or two.

The main Guest Relations and Explorations Desk is located on Deck 5.

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Casino Royale

Also on Deck 5, is the Casino Royale. The casino is only open on days when we’re on the sea, and closed when we are actually at our Port of Calls due to gambling laws. This casino operates under international gambling laws so they are only allowed to be open while in international waters. We spent quite a lot of time here on our first couple of days, as hubby and I were attempting the Royal Texas Holdem Tournament but we didn’t make it to the final table. I came 2nd place in the qualifying round but the other guy beat me with a lucky hand. Oh well!

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Also on Deck 5 (and Deck 6) is the Broadway Melodies Theatre. Hubby and I spent a lot of time in this gorgeous theatre. Every night there is either a production show by the Royal Caribbean dancers and singers, or a guest act – we had an instrumentalist who can play 275 musical instruments, an illusionist, a juggler, singers, and acrobatic acts. The production shows were so awesome! World class production shows with amazing stage props and incredible talent. Very entertaining! Would normally pay at least $70pp to see one of these shows… but on a cruise ship, it’s FREE! Well ok, all inclusive in the cost. Also, movies were shown in the theatre every afternoon – mostly recent movies, occasionally classics, and of course a Christmas movie on Christmas Day.

At the theatre

Photo of hubby and I in the theatre 🙂

We would order Mudslides pretty much every time we’re in the theatre!

Shall We Dance Lounge 

On Deck 6, the Schooner Bar is a casual bar where people can sit and drink and chat. On the evenings, the Schooner Bar would feature a live singer / pianist and during the day Trivia would be hosted at the Schooner Bar. As you walk past the Schooner Bar, the Shall We Dance Lounge is this huge place where a live band plays at night for some dancing and during the day it is used for lectures, workshops, cocktail demonstrations and Bingo.

Moonlight Bar\

Also on Deck 6 is the Moonlight Bay Lounge where you can just relax and read a book or play some board games or simply sit back and chat to friends and spend some quiet time with the family.

 Deck 6 also had Conference Centers with a variety of meeting rooms.

Cards Room 

Deck 7 had more rooms but also the Library and the Card Room.

Deck 8 had even more rooms (fancy suites) as well as the Internet Lounge.

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Whirlpool 

Deck 9 – Outdoor pool with four whirlpools / spa areas and the pool bar.

Solarium

Also on Deck 9 – the indoor pool with two whirlpools (adult only area, kids are only allowed if the weather is bad and only if supervised by an adult and only within certain hours).

Solarium Cafe 

The indoor pool area (the Solarium) also had a cafe where you can grab a pizza or a burger and help yourselves to some salad and desserts anytime of the day! Open until late.

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We helped ourselves to some soft serve ice cream while we were at the pool!

Windjammer Cafe 

Also on Deck 9, the Windjammer Cafe! The Windjammer is open pretty much all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can pretty much walk in anytime during the day and help yourselves to the vast amount of FOOD, buffet styled, all you can eat! The menu changes everyday too (except breakfast that’s pretty much the same everyday) but lunch and dinner offer a nice surprise everyday. Words cannot express the free flow of food in this place, so I will let these photos do the talking…

Desserts Buffet 

The Deli

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Thirst Quenchers 

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Anyway, enough with the food or I will never finish this tour of the ship! I will blog more about the food in Part 3 of this blog series.

Deck 9 also had the Day Spa and Fitness Centre. The photos of these areas were taken with my phone so much poorer image quality. But here’s a quick photo of the Hair Salon:

Hair salon 

Deck 10 had the Observatory where you can walk all the way around the ship.

The Deck 

Deck 10 also had a Rock Climbing Wall. Hubby wanted to do this, but never got the chance to. Too busy with other activities! Deck 10 also had a Teen Center and Arcade where teenagers can hang out and play games. Interestingly enough, at night the Teen Center turns into a Teen Disco where teenagers can also dance the night away in a non-alcoholic zone. Very nice. The children’s play center aka Adventure Ocean is right next door, where toys, books, games and activities for the kids are organised. Parents can also leave their kids there and enjoy their day without worrying! Childcare services are also available at night for a fee. A cruise holiday is a very family-friendly holiday!

Rock Climbing Wall

And on Deck 11, the Viking Crown Lounge turns into a pretty happening nightclub every night. DJ Jamie is the inhouse DJ and he spins the latest songs. There is also a bouncer! Like a normal club, you cannot enter if you are below 18. The SeaPass card clearly shows your age, and their scanning system has a picture of you, so you still don’t need to carry ID around. Hubby and I only went “clubbing” once throughout our entire cruise trip but that was enough, we’re getting old haha. The dancefloor was packed and it was a good night – like the “real thing” in clubs onshore.

So that’s basically my first round-up featuring a tour of the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship. Part 2 will feature some of the activities while were onboard, followed by some Food Reviews in Part 3 and finally a recap of the Port of Calls in Vanuatu and New Caledonia in Part 4.

Overall, this cruise holiday was excellent value for us. We got a good deal with CruisePilot during their sale period 15 months before we set sail. We pretty much got a 40% discount and only paid $1,200pp for 9 nights accommodation, all food included, all entertainment included. That is on average $133pp per day! On any other holiday, you can easily pay triple that if you included the cost of 3 meals and entertainment.

To be continued….